After all the lockdowns and shutdowns of 2020, I must admit to considerable interest in attending the Sydney Caravan Camping Holiday Supershow at Rosehill Racecourse. It was my first RV show in over a year, my last oddly enough being in Auckland, New Zealand, and it was good to see events like this are starting to happen again.
I like to get to RV shows nice and early, so I have plenty of time to get around and see all the exhibitors. Obviously on day one, a considerable number of other show goers thought the same thing because there was a large crowd waiting for opening time and most people seem to have caught on to the requirement for online bookings in this age of COVID-19,
There’s no doubt quite a few manufacturers and dealers faced something of a challenge at the show this year — that being stock shortages. Anyone who has tried to order a caravan or motorhome recently will know that delivery times are long and getting longer. Although many manufacturers can deliver later this year, there is an equal number who are talking dates well into next year.
COVID-19 is the prime reason on several counts. International travel is off the agenda for some time and many an Australian is looking to a domestic alternative, at which the RV industry has a ringside seat. Unfortunately, just like the car, building and boating industries, component shortages are becoming chronic. China is often blamed for this, but in the case of the RV industry, quite a number of components also come out of Europe.
PLENTY TO SEE
Despite all that, the exhibitors put on an impressive display. Most of the usual suspects were at the show but the most notable absentee was Jayco. Still, both Avan and New Age made good use of the space normally occupied by Jayco, which had a flow on effect to other dealers and manufacturers, resulting in more spacious stands.
During the last decade, caravan weights have been increasing and this has been a matter of increasing concern. So it was interesting to note that most manufacturers included weight details on caravan promotion sheets. At least it means buyers don't have to hunt around for the plate that specifies amongst other things, important details like the Tare and Aggregate Trailer Mass — though there is still concern as I overheard an enthusiastic salesperson telling a potential customer the tare included full water tanks and gas cylinders which is clearly incorrect.
TIME TO PONDER
When I look over a van at shows I like to take my time to sit and have a think about the features, something I’d recommend to any purchaser, particularly first timers. It’s good to get a feel for how easy the van is to move around, how the kitchen is laid out and wether you can get comfortable on the lounges.
Anyway, it’s often interesting to listen to comments made by showgoers, particularly those from newbies to the RV industry. Frequently, comments about design features don’t matter so much, but there are clearly still serious misunderstandings about the aforementioned weight issues. It’s not always elegant, but people who lay down on beds to check the length or try the seating out for kicking back are using their heads I reckon.
Caravan and motorhome design trends are often a little hard to pick but offroad and rough road caravans still seem to be creating interest. Just about every stand I looked at had at least three or four offroad models, and at some that was all they had.
Some five or six years ago, apart from the likes of Jayco and Avan it was often difficult to find a family caravan with bunk beds. At the show this year, every manufacturer had at least one bunk van on display and a considerable number had two or three models available.
Typical examples were to be found on the Parravans (Windsor) stand. On display were both an Ocean Breeze bunk van and an Atlantic model. In the latter case it was only 5.03m (16ft 6in), so good for family car towing.
Single axle caravans seem to be becoming more popular. Although not having quite the space of a tandem axle van, with smart design it’s amazing for just how many features could be fitted into a downsized area. Examples of great use of space include the models on the Eurovans stand and something like the Roadstar Little Rippa. Designed for offroad travel, it’s also designed for travelling in comfort!
In the undercover area Goldstream had a huge and varied number of vans, poptops and campers in the small to mid-sized arena, both for couples and families. Indeed, they were something of a contrast to the boofier offroad Lotus caravans on the other side of the walkway. In other words, there’s something for everyone!
The relentless rise and rise of technology continues with more sophisticated batteries, battery management and charging systems being built into RVs as standard.
Although not standard, a typical example of the technology rise was Retreat’s new ERV caravan. With 2400W of solar capacity, 14.3kW lithium battery and a 5000W inverter, it was capable of running the Truma Saphir air conditioner for extended periods without a problem.
Coffs Coast Caravans had an impressive range of Titanium Caravans and they had the builder Jason Gretch on hand to answer questions on the layouts and aluminium frame manufacturing process.
Aluminium frames seem to be increasing in popularity and as well as Queensland builder Bushtracker we saw offerings from Victorian builders Urban and Vacationer, both of which are making inroads into the offroad market.
A question often asked of me at shows, usually by dealers or manufacturers is what’s new. The answer is frequently not much on a big scale but continuing the trend over the past four or five years, just about all manufacturers have had a policy of improvement and refinement. Apart from the Retreat van mentioned above, there were a couple of standouts. One was at the Royal Flair stand where the latest design of the Piazza model (the one with the fold down deck on the drawbar) had a north-south electric drop-down bed. Whilst drop down beds are not new, most designs are transverse with the disadvantage of at least one partner not having easy access in and out.
Crusader had several compact caravans on display. Slightly larger than the Chameleon range it developed a couple of years ago, models like the Esperance and Gladiator were an interesting demonstration of big things in small packages. Apart from anything else, the vans’ layouts were an interesting demonstration of just how space-saving single beds can be. Many travellers do like their double beds but they, especially the island variety, are space hogs and do not have the dual purpose of single beds/day lounges.
‘Sticks n’ tin’ (meranti timber/aluminium cladding) has long been the time-honoured caravan construction method for many. Aluminium framing is a common alternative but at the Retreat stand they were showing off a new construction method using polyurethane frame members and sandwich panelling. The composite structure certainly looked to be a very good idea, particularly in an industry where some van building techniques don't change much over a long period of time, despite advances in areas like composite wall structures.
Sydney RV stand had the new range of Coromal Soul Seeker caravans on display. Since Coromal and Windsor caravans have become part of the Apollo group, the company has been steadily developing a new range of vans for both and the dealer certainly had a good range of both on display. Also on the same stand was a small range of Majestic Knight vans. Expect to see more of them soon since Sydney RV has recently become a Majestic dealer.
Avida should have had their latest Topaz van on display but unfortunately it was so new the glue was not yet dry. My name is at the top of the list for a review soon! What Avida did have on show was the latest Leura motorhome. It’s not a new model but has had something of a makeover.
One of the advantages of a show in a major city is that country dealers get a chance to show their product, including two Newcastle businesses. Fair Dinkum Caravans had Network RV, Elite and Next Gen, while 7th Street Caravans (no relation) were proud of their range of Silver Valley and Roadtrip. Albury Dealer Simply Caravans had their own brand of Red Centre Caravans which look like they are up to the task of outback travel.
It wasn’t only on the RV stands where new products were on display. Dometic had quite a large stand with a number of appliances on display and not only the usual fixed ones that are found in caravans and motorhome. In addition to that, an inflatable awning (no poles) was on show. Certainly the Award RV Superstore seemed to be very busy as did all the towing, electrical and appliances specialists.
Then of course for those who can’t quite decide where to go or where to stay, there were plenty of holiday destinations and holiday parks exhibitors. My only piece of advice here, given the domestic only travel we have at the moment, is to book ahead, not just turn up and expect to get your usual spot!
According to Caravan & Camping Industry Association (NSW) CEO Lyndel Grey the show this year was a huge success, with over 61,000 attendees over the six days. “The Supershow is always a very popular event attended by thousands of people every year. While people couldn't come last year, it is fantastic that they have returned this year with increased enthusiasm,”
“Our exhibitors were thrilled with the customer engagement with many reporting record sales and strong demand as people looked for products, services and inspiration for their next holiday.
Grey concluded that “Caravan and camping is the number one choice for a holiday in NSW and after a year of restricted travel, it's great to see people are keenly embracing the opportunity to plan their next trip.”